Saturday, June 15, 2019

Brian Beatty On Frank Stanford

Borrowed Trouble: Micro Tribute to Frank Stanford (1948-1978)

I wouldn’t write at all if it weren’t for myriad writers before me whose works showed me what was possible. The poems of this series are small offerings of respect, of thanks, to those muses. – Brian Beatty

Frank Stanford

The crook of the moon
silhouettes the owl
in the tree though not
the snake curled below.

The lukewarm tea
he sips at the barn door
tastes mysteriously

like homemade whiskey.
He chokes down the night

then coughs up God.

– Brian Beatty


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Brian's most recent collections of poetry are Dust and Stars: Miniatures and Brazil, Indiana. Don't miss Brian's columns on the great poets: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.

Tobi Alfier - Let's Talk About Father's Day. . .


I am a terrible daughter. My mom and dad came over last weekend to see their grandson. We ordered pizza and I paid for it. That was my Father’s Day present to my dad. And a poem. I don’t expect that everyone has or had the relationship with their dad or kids that I have, but my dad is great! He knows my mobility sucks, so it’s not like he was expecting something from the mall or anything. This man drove me all over the San Fernando Valley a hundred years ago to look at potter’s wheels, which we found. I don’t know why we didn’t buy one. I guess I gave up on making pots at the Whole Earth Marketplace while we were driving around. Don’t even ask me about the Karmann Ghia! My parents. Bless them both.  Whatever your relationship, however you spend your day, I hope the weather is beautiful, you wear sunblock, and you pay for the pizza.

What a Daughter Knows                   

There’s a reason for memory.
Daughter and father side by side
at the bathroom sink shaving,
she with a key from a sardine can
and lots of lather, daughter
and father side by side in the yard,
trimming the hedges with
nail scissors and shears,

daughter as she kisses father
goodbye, takes the hand
of a boy not good enough for her.

Plaid shorts and playing at the shore—
he will take out her splinters,
get her ears pierced,
buy her diamond earrings,
and kiss her as he holds his new grandson.
He will cry at her sorrows,
and laugh at her pleasures.
A daughter knows.
A daughter knows.

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Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Slices Of Alice. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.


Saturday, June 8, 2019

Poetry Reading! June 9th 5-7 PM


We are partying over the release of the 30th issue of Cholla Needles!

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On June 9, from 5-7 PM at Space Cowboy Books, George Howell and Shoichi will be our featured readers. They each have a brand new book out out worth coming to hear from. We are also celebrating the arrival of issue 30!!! Any member of the community who wishes to be part of this celebration is encouraged to bring a poem to share! We celebrate our love of poetry of all kinds as a community! See you at Space Cowboy Books. We all look forward to hearing your work!

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Brian Beatty On Kenneth Koch

Borrowed Trouble: Micro Tribute to Kenneth Koch (1925-2002)

I wouldn’t write at all if it weren’t for myriad writers before me whose works showed me what was possible. The poems of this series are small offerings of respect, of thanks, to those muses. – Brian Beatty

Kenneth Koch

A mail order beret?
What was I thinking?

It shipped from Paris,
sure. Paris, Illinois.

I suppose you don’t
know where that is.

Look it up in an atlas.
They used to be given

away at gas stations.

– Brian Beatty


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Brian's most recent collections of poetry are Dust and Stars: Miniatures and Brazil, Indiana. Don't miss Brian's columns on the great poets: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.

Book Review: California Continuum

California Continuum: Volume One: Migrations and Amalgamations by Grant Hier and John Brantingham, Pelekinesis, 2019, $20.00, 250 pages.

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California Continuum takes readers on a non-linear journey through 13,000 years of California history. Authors Grant Hier and John Brantingham use flash fiction and short stories to distill the history of the Golden State to its essential elements.

Each story is astute, compelling, and engaging. One moment you’re with Juan, who works two jobs back-to-back to support his own family plus family members left behind in Mexico. The next, you’re with Ed, a Buffalo Soldier in the Indian Wars—“This world was never made with the idea of Ed in it. There is no place for Ed in a world where they cut down giant trees.” And the next moment, you’re with a woman by the sea honoring the sand—“How she loves her family, her clan. Like a nest floating on the sea.” 

There are Vietnamese refugees, Zoot Suit Riots, residents of Japanese internment camps, convicts leaving prison, and repo men. There are the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles and the First Baptist Church Choir trading show tunes and gospel songs. There are the survivors and victims of California wildfires. There’s a young woman with hopes for a new life who ends up working as a prostitute, and another woman who rides the train away from an abusive husband. There are family secrets, and more.

I was impressed repeatedly by the details of people’s thoughts and actions. This put me into their stories instead of being an observer. Also, the stories humanized each situation and its impact on nature or politics. California is a land of indigenous peoples, migrants, settlers, and priests. These stories are gateways to understanding cultures and generations, past and present.

In “Disheveled,” Kate and Kevin deal with the aftermath of a 6.5 magnitude earthquake. “It looks like a bomb went off,” Kate says when she first sees the damage to the library where they work. Kevin puts out a call for help, and volunteers arrive to reshelf books. Their friend Peter observes how the books represent people from every nation on earth, and how their stories are continuously taken in, one book at a time, one line at a time, becoming part of the rest of us.

Readers can draw their own conclusions about the land and their own connections with the human condition, ranging from cruelty, sorrow, and justice to vision and hope. Whatever the emotional temperature, Hier and Brantingham capture the uniqueness of this place called California.

Click here to purchase California Continuum online.


Review By Cindy Rinne
Cindy Rinne creates art and writes in San Bernardino, CA. She brings myth to life in contemporary context. She is the author and artist behind Moon Of Many Petals from Cholla Needles (2018)

Book Review: Gilded Snow: The Poems of Raissa Parnok

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Edited with commentary by David Chorlton

As a genre, feline poetry is generally both overlooked and underrated by humans. How many four-legged poets among us have suffered the indignity of being ignored? How many of their contributions to our planet’s poetic soul have been lost? We’ll never possess the answer to these grave questions—but, fortunately, some atonement is now available in this slim volume.

Gilded Snow: The Poems of Raissa Parnok purports to be this snow-white kitty’s complete oeuvre. Through the astute commentary of David Chorlton, we learn what there is to be known about her life and times, as well as her influences and interpretations of her enigmatic work.

Like sensitive souls of every species, Raissa’s turn towards poetry may have had its roots in trauma: a 13-day disappearance that remains shrouded in mystery. Over a year later, she turned to writing—Chorlton observes, “we must conclude that she channels her innermost feelings only into this small but intense output.”

With access to a computer keyboard upon which her paws could roam freely, Raissa began her poetic career with this haiku-like foray:

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Chorlton writes, “Significant here is the use of punctuation at the beginning of the line to point forward…Numerology adds to the mystery. The poet has chosen not to speak on this in public.”

She proceeds to let her imagination run wild, as in this elegant example which “shows Raissa at her best and most contemporary”:

/.
cv       .c
]

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Yet the poet did not restrict herself to brief forms. She also experimented with Whitman-esque long forms before returning to word-play seemingly influenced by Robert Creeley or Gertrude Stein. In a section titled “Poetry at the Watershed of Meaning,” we find:

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Chorlton offers, “The speechless quality of this work is beyond dispute. We face a barrier across a border, indicating that New World Order or not, we still live with boundaries of physical and spiritual dimensions and only the international language that has no alphabet is adequate to communicate across them.”
As a bonus, there are many photos of Raissa among these pages—including a rare poster from her reading at the Cool Cats Book Shoppe in Phoenix—plus watercolors of Raissa by Chorlton. There is also a sample poem from a kitty named Cleveland, one of Raissa’s followers who carried on her legacy of C=A=T poetry.

Perhaps more than most human poets, Raissa understood that “each work is a new beginning.” Her creative output and Chorlton’s wry interludes make for an enjoyable read.



About the Commentator/Editor:
David Chorlton came to Phoenix from Europe in 1978 with his wife Roberta, an Arizona native. He quickly became comfortable with the climate while adjusting to the New World took longer. Writing and reading poetry have helped in that respect, as has exposure to the American small presses. He and Roberta have shared their living space with many cats over the years, each one distinguished in his or her own way while Raissa stands out for her cultural leanings.

Reading T. S. Eliot to a Bird (Hoot 'n Waddle, 2018)
Bird on a Wire (Presa Press, 2017)
A Field Guide to Fire (FutureCycle Press, 2015)
Selected Poems (FutureCycle Press, 2014)
The Devil's Sonata (FutureCycle Press, 2012)

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About the Reviewer:

Tobi Alfier - Preheat Oven to 350…


I don’t know about you, but I am tired this week! Not tired of writing this blog, not tired of writing at all, just T-I-R-E-D!!!

A great thing happened this week though – our son Owen is home from college for about a month. And he loves to cook. Instead of thinking about the one very bad poem I’ve written, and whether it can be saved, I’ve been thinking about what he made for dinner last night and how delicious it was.

You know baking is like writing a poem in form. You have to be a chemist when measuring accurately, just as you have to stay true to a form (someday I’ll tell you about the time I used a half POUND of butter when making cookies, instead of a half CUP). Cooking however…Owen isn’t just the free verse of cooking, he’s the thesaurus! He couldn’t find lemons at the store so he got a blood orange instead. I would never think of that, and I cannot WAIT till lunch because I know we have leftovers.

Kate Braverman
Many years ago, a fiction-writing friend of mine and I took a weekend extension class taught by Kate Braverman. We had previously seen her on a panel at the LA Times Festival of Books. One of the cool things she talked about was writing poetry like a recipe. Start the title “How to” and then be as literal as you want.

You can “list” all the ingredients in the beginning lines of the poem and then explain how they all fit together in subsequent stanzas, or do anything you want. I really liked the idea, and the “permission” to do something different. Between Owen and Kate Braverman, I have a cookbook full of things to try.

How to Travel Forever

Have conversations with people you see
and those you imagine.  Position yourself
so the light bounces off the man’s glasses
and opens worlds back to you.  Wear clothes
that make everyone you pass shadow you,
hours later they’re still whispering about them.
When you appear in a dream you have tallied
the signposts, traveled far.  Eat cinnamon,
it will ooze from your skin like cookies.
Worry the Metro ticket in your palm.  In
your pocket.  Remember how you came up
the steps into the light, stood at a bar
and had coffee, the branches outside
stirring a soft orchestration upon your face.
Listen to old music, touch his hand.
The sum of you greater than each of you
unmatched, expand into the sky.

            (formerly published in Bacopa)

I only have about five “recipe poems”. I like them all. They’ve all been published. I forgot I had this arrow in my quiver until I started thinking about last night’s dinner. Thank you Owen.

It is good to have something to fall back on when you’re kind of “stuck”. I started writing my “Landlady” poems on purpose. I wanted to write a series on landladies. If that hadn’t been a conscious effort, whenever I had nothing to write, I could have written a landlady poem. If you have a copy of my book “Slices of Alice & Other Character Studies”, you’ll see the entire series of landlady poems, all in the same place.

One subject I write about often is “The Man”. He’s not always the same person. Sometimes he’s a real person, sometimes not. They’re fun to write because since he’s made up, I can give him all sorts of characteristics. He can be anything. He can do anything.

“The Man” turns up from book to book. Because he’s not a series per se, I write him whenever I feel like it. Lately I’ve been writing poems about “The Blind Woman”. I love the idea of her reading her lover’s face with her fingertips, or remembering a color. Again, she is not a series, not like the landladies or the twenty-one page Slices of Alice. She is a person I write about sometimes. And she will follow me from book to book as well.

Think about your body of work. Does every single poem stand alone? Do you ever wish you had written it differently? Or added more to it? What about writing a “Part Two” of that poem? And then a “Part Three”? Before you know it, you will either have a series that you can publish all together, or a subject you can write about when you feel like it.

Like the idea of the “recipes”, anything you have in your arsenal, that will give you something to write about when nothing new is coming, is a good thing. Anything that “gives you permission” to touch back on work you love, to make new work you love, is also a good thing.

Give yourself permission. Now go write!!

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Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Slices Of Alice. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears.